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Broadband legislation clears House

Bill changes way broadband service data is collected, which American Farm Bureau Federation says is a win for rural areas.

Legislation is moving through Congress to require the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules to change the way broadband data is collected, verified and reported.

The bills are H.R.4229 and S.1822. H.R.4229, the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, was introduced Sept. 6 by Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa. It was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on Dec. 17. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, introduced S.1822 in the Senate on June 12.

The bill needs Senate approval before moving to the president for his approval, according to CNET.com.

The bill requires the FCC to collect and disseminate granular broadband service availability data from wired, fixed-wireless, satellite and mobile broadband providers. FCC is required to establish the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric as the vehicle for reporting broadband service availability data. Additionally, the FCC must put forth specified requirements for service availability data collected from broadband providers, and it must create a challenge process to enable the submission of independent data challenging the accuracy of FCC broadband maps.

The American Farm Bureau Federation praised the legislation.

“Broadband is a necessity and many rural areas still don’t have access to it or are underserved.  With limited funding, it’s critical we target resources where they are needed most,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Farm Bureau thanks members of the House who worked diligently to pass this legislation and who are committed to delivering broadband access to rural communities. We strongly encourage the Senate to take up this issue without delay.”

Current broadband coverage maps are inadequate because they rely on census block data to determine which areas are covered, AFBF says. Census blocks are too large in rural and remote locations to accurately determine need. If even one household in a given census block is reported by a provider as being served, then the entire block is considered served. Census blocks larger than 2 square miles comprise more than 64% of the U.S. land area, so every rural area is impacted by this problem in some way.

The bill is endorsed by the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, USTelecom, NCTA-The Internet Cable Association, Competitive Carriers Association and CTIA, according to Broadband Communities Magazine.

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